Friday, May 31, 2013



Decades ago I saw ‘Guide’ the film adaptation of R.K.Narayan’s book of the same name. Though there was some controversy regarding the adaptation in general, the film was well made with some of the most memorable songs and a highpoint in Dev Anand’s acting. Since this is not a critique of the movie itself, I am restricting myself to the character of the protagonist Raju. A fascinating transformation of a travel guide, a glib talker, a hopeless romantic, being sent to jail in a case of forgery and ultimately ending up as a spiritual person who is venerated as a saint by the villagers, where he had taken refuge. All this much against his own natural inclination, the mantel was thrust upon him and he flowed in with the tide that ultimately engulfs him. Though he had the option to get away from all this, something makes him stay back, the belief of the villagers and his own realisation of a spiritual self. He says that these people have faith in him and he has faith in their faith, though he knows that there is no connection between rain and the fast he had undertaken initially due to the intense pressure on him by the villager’s faith but later of his own volition. He had at last found for himself a way to transcend and wash away his previous failings as a human being and find an authenticity in the conduct of his life. He had found the meaning of life. He did not work miracles as the people around him believed, he was just an ordinary human being but in death he was a man fulfilled. And as the rains come Raju passes away leaving his mortal remains. That is how the movie ends. He had indeed become a saint. A reluctant saint for if he had been left to himself, his life could have taken a different course. In Raju’s own words in the book, he says “I am doing what I have to do; that is all. My likes and dislikes, do not count” indicating, a complete erasing of the ego. On the eleventh day he collapses after saying that it has started raining in the hills. He dies a spiritually liberated man, the epitome of a Karma yogi.

You may say that this is a work of fiction. Yes it is, but haven’t we at some stage been pushed in to something that is not as per our natural inclination and which subsequently has been life changing? In Raju’s case it was the awakening of his conscience by the persistent faith of the villagers, his realisation that there is something which afforded him a deeper meaning to his life and an authentic existence. As Joseph Knecht says in Hermann Hesse’s ‘The Glass Bead Game’ “My awakening has a similar kind of intensified reality for me. That is why I have given it this name; at such times I really feel as if I had lain asleep or half asleep for a long time, but am now awake and clear headed and receptive in a way I never am ordinarily”.

Last night in my dreams I saw the naked man once again, tall, dark, a well formed body, white curly hair on his head and a flowing curly white beard. He looked like Michaelangelo’s sculpture of Moses in St. Peters in the Vatican, a black Moses and he seemed to be saying something to me. As a child, I have seen him walking on the streets, on the main roads, totally oblivious of the curious onlookers including me. I was told that he was a mad man. Now I can correlate what Nietzsche says in ‘Thus Spake Zarathrushtra’ – “For what is a naked man among clothed men but a mad man”. I was frightened and so were the other children though we used to make fun of him.  He used to mutter to himself as he walked but sometimes there would be persons following him with a packet of sweets or fruits entreating him to eat them but he would wave them away. I asked my mother and she explained to me that it was their belief that if he partook of what they gave him it would result in some benefit or the other accruing to them. I asked whether he was a saint with some strange powers and she said that some believed so. Sometimes I have seen him sitting quietly in a corner and talking to himself. He was a curious object for me at that stage of my life. He was a saint to the believers but a mad man to others.

Now as that image flashes across my mind I am able to understand. He was in a different plane of existence, totally stripped, literally, of all the normal human desires and emotions though continuing to live amongst us only as a body though he himself was elsewhere. What is it that pushes a person to that state of total detachment of body and mind? But why is it that I now remember him though he was only an incident somewhere far away in my childhood? What is he trying to tell me in my dreams now?

When I talk of saints here I am not talking of miracle men, I am talking about persons who have made a difference in the lives of people around them, given them hope. Who can deny the relevance of Ramana Maharishi or a Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a Shirdi Sai Baba who have lived beyond their mortal life to continue to give solace and hope to multitudes. They showed us the path of compassion and humanity. Swami Vivekanand, who through the conduct of his life spread the message of humanity and the need to lead a moral life. There were many such people in this country even till the middle of the last century. But at the core of their being was a religion they followed and a supreme power they believed in, call it whatever name you will. These were not men who donned a mantel for the enhancement of their selfish means for they had transcended all that was egoistic and found a merger with the absolute. All of them have lived beyond their death and left no dynasty.

With the continued growth of a materialistic society our demands and needs have increased and we look out for quick fix solutions to attain them. Our greed has over taken and eroded our basic humanity. It is this that has contributed to the proliferation of Godmen who promise to deliver the goods and lead you to salvation with their own selfish agenda in mind. All this is done in the name of religion. Religion has nothing do with any of this. It is we ourselves who are to blame for the erosion of values in our present existence. It is religion that has given us a code for the conduct of our lives, which sadly seems to have been pushed to the background or misinterpreted.

Some attain sainthood during the course of their lives when pushed on to search for truth and the true meaning of existence like the Buddha, some have sainthood thrust upon them and in the process achieve a state of realisation like Raju and many make themselves saints like the present day godmen who thrive on peoples gullibility. Some others like the naked man, who seem totally oblivious of their physical selves will be dubbed as mad men. It is for you to choose.


vaikuntam said...

I am curious about the last line - 'it is for you to choose'. It is only the Godmen who use religion or spirituality for power or money who choose. The other three categories did not choose. It comes to them. Both the Buddha types and the naked man types often lived in their own lights without analysis and it is their followers who gave it the religious interpretation. Much of what we know as Christianity has crystallised much after the life of Christ. Like true Gurus it is not so much the knowledge they imparted, if any at all, that was important. It was their power to bring out the spirituality within us. They did not care to write. May be they realised that reason and language have their limitations. As the poet said 'Tu dil mein to aata hai, samajh mein nahi aata, maloom hua bus teri pehchan yehi hai'

It is true that many great men lived up to the middle of the last century. But we have still not evaluated the impact of people like Amritananda Mayee, Pramukh Swami and Atwale. I do not intend to equate them with the great ones as yet. But it is not possible to evaluate those too close to us in history with confidence. The inspiration derived by their followers may yet amplify the impact of their lives

Induchoodan said...

The sad part is that we have too many Rajus in our country and people follow these guys who have not reached the level of God realization. In fact sainthood has become a money making proposition, a profession.

I am still trying to understand the process of Samadhi in the light of the knowledge gained in brain circuitory in recent years. I think the brain goes into a greater and sophisticated state of neural networking state of which the conscious state we live our every day life is only a sub-set.

Varsha said...

Those who bring about change in the thought process of people are few and rare. They encourage you to think and not accept laid down rules and thoughts and teachings. That was the greatness of Buddha who asked people to think for themselves.
The naked man is all alone in his own world. His reality is very different from the rest of the world around him.
What learned men, reformers have done in society is to have allowed people to come out from the entangled ritualistic life and to open their eyes and minds and break free from godmen and pujaries.
Vivekanand, Ram Mohun Roy, Maharshi Karve have been such people who have tried to bring about reforms in our dogma ridden society.
Raju Guide was just a victim of circumstances where greatness was thrust upon him. He did try very hard to escape, but was entrapped by the villagers.